Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State has warned Caverton Helicopters against operating in the state during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdown.
POLITICS NIGERIA reports that governor Wike had shut down the aircraft office in the state and ordered the arrest of the passengers and pilots for flouting the Coronavirus lockdown in order to curb the spread of the disease.
This news medium had also reported that the government subsequently arraigned them before at a magistrate’s court and remanded in prison till May.
The airline also condemned the arrest and detention of the pilots, saying aviation authorities granted it permission to fly into Rivers state.
The Federal Government has also condemned the arrest of the airlines’ pilots and passengers, saying that it approved the operation of the flights in the interest of national economy.
In a state broadcast on Wednesday, the governor said failure to adhere to the state government’s directive to curb the spread of the disease will be met with severe punishment.
Speaking further, Wike said the airline would only operate in the state at its own risk if it continues to flout the state government’s lockdown order.
Wike said: “We appreciate the need to protect business interests and operations in the State and we will do whatever that is required to ensure that no business is unduly affected by the measures we have taken to combat the Coronavirus.
“However, we shall not welcome businesses or companies that value their business activities or profit more than or in clear disregard of the lives and health of our people.
“By its actions, Carverton Helicopters have clearly shown that Rivers lives do not matter to it. It is an enemy of Rivers people and is hereby declared persona non grata in Rivers State.
“With this declaration, Carverton Helicopters can only choose to operate in any part of Rivers State at its own risk as Local Government Chairmen have been directed to close their offices and prevent their operations.”
Wike said that it was highly insensitive and provocative actions of Carverton Helicopters took place in the midst of credible intelligence reports about plans by enemies of the state to traffic carriers of the dreaded Coronavirus into the State.
He said: “Their morbid intention is to create panic by pushing up the infection rate and rubbish the robust measures we have since put in place to cut off the spread of the virus and keep our state and our citizens safe and secure from the ravaging pandemic.
” As expected, and required by our laws, the crew and the passengers on board that ill-fated helicopter were promptly arrested by the law enforcement personnel and are being prosecuted before our courts in line with our COVID-19 Declarations and Containment Orders.
“Carverton Helicopters claimed to have gotten permits from some federal agencies to fly passengers into the State, which never bordered to take the State Government into confidence in issuing such permits in violation of our laws and containment orders.
“While federal agencies reserve the right to issue flight permits to airline operators to fly into Rivers State, we insist that the State Government must equally be informed and taken into confidence in the process.
“This the only way to avoid suspicion, conflicts of interests and unnecessary bickering between the State and Federal Governments in our collective efforts to combat the spread of COVID 19 in the country.
“Let me reiterate that for us, COVID 19 in Rivers State is a matter of life and death, and we will never succumb to any blackmail from any person, institution or authority in our determination to protect our citizens and our State from the spread of this deadly virus.
“Since we triggered the law on Carverton Helicopters, we have seen and read all sorts of hilarious and frivolous comments, particularly on social media, questioning the propriety of our actions against the carrier and its passengers
“At this time and under the present situation, nothing; I repeat; nothing, is more important to us than to safeguard the lives and well-being of our citizens no matter the cost, and we shall spare no efforts to achieve this singular most fundamental objective of our Government.”